Interview with EFWA Upcycling Designer Ras Kasozi of Kas Wear (Uganda)

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

I studied IT but in my country job seeking is hard so as I while I was looking for IT jobs, I accidentally joined fashion. I grew up knowing how to sew though I didn't know fashion was a big business. I just used to get second hand clothes and recycle them for my wearing. I didn't know that I was good but through friends who encouraged me, I managed to leave all other dreams behind and focused on fashion. 

All in all I have been inspired and encouraged by the energy in my community towards my work. I used not to care about my works, but through the respect towards my work I was forced to take fashion as my career. 

I know you are self-taught. How did you acquire your skills – sewing, sizing, drafting, etc.? What came easiest? What was a struggle to learn?

Since my mum was a tailor, I grew up knowing how to sew - though I learnt this illegally because she never wanted me to be a tailor. First I got to know how to use the machine but I couldn’t make patterns. My mind drove me to bookshops for patterns and sizing. I couldn’t afford to buy a book. Instead I used to read through illegally. Later I took it serious and started charging my friend for the clothes they ordered.

Sewing became easy for me because at the age of 9 I could make lines and simple repairing. Because of my long experience sewing, I now have the ability in running machines plus doing different techniques for different art. I can even make stitch portraits using the basic sewing machine designed for straight lines.

Since I had no guidance, quality and finishing were so hard to acquire, I had no one to advise me about quality control, I had to find out through experience that my designs had poor finishing.  I started learning from already made imported garments. Looking at them I learnt the two basic things which are steaming and stitch lines. 

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both? 

I am a fashion designer with a purpose - nurturing talents and promoting change in the youth through exposure to African Art. I partner with the United States Mission Uganda to run a fashion project called SEED (Skilled Expressive Entrepreneurial Designers), a show that promotes young designers and I founded a fashion label called KAS WEAR  -  a brand that nurtures possibilities with creating ideas, sharing knowledge, changing perspective and exposing African art. KAS WEAR is a brand with both fashion products and services of education. We do custom based products, internships, workshops and each year we release three new product lines which are launched on fashion shows. 

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Up cycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever up cycled used garments before? If so, how?

My lack of financial capital forced me to gain extensive experience in recycling, I have made so many recycled pieces, I can’t remember how many.  I have made clothes out of newspapers, second hand clothes, fishnets and polythene bags, but the heels I made from airtime vouchers spoke to me the most.

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

In my showcase I was inspired by tourism's attraction in my country of Uganda. Every day a group of people enter the country as tourists. This makes me feel Uganda is a centre of of interest to the world, so in my showcase the audience should expect to see the beauty of Uganda. 

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

My focus now is on international collaborations. This year I need to work with other designers from around the world for both international exposure and to increase my creativity. As a self taught designer, I always strive to learn from others.

What's next for you as a designer? What are your long term dreams?

I am living in a country where fashion doesn’t have an identity. I and my fellow designers in the SEED Uganda Association are working towards identifying Uganda’s fashion. Our goal is in five years to be in a position where the world will be able to identify fashion from Uganda for both economic increase and Uganda’s embracement.

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